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Romans 8:13-17 by Robert Dean
In Romans 8:13 we’re told that if we live according to the flesh we must die. Is this eternal death? What are the choices believers make that result in spiritual maturity and life? Is one who proclaims “Jesus' words” while consistently walking in the flesh someone God recognizes as a mature son? Is there a difference in being adopted as a son and inheriting, and between being a child of God and a son of God? How is it that our inheritance, which God has set aside for us, can be thrown into the Lake of Fire? Understand the historical background of adoption and its doctrinal significance as it applies to the Greek and Roman ideas of adoption. Paul will expand on these ideas to show the privileges and obligations of being sons.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:58 mins 18 secs

Adoption and Heirship

Romans 8:13–17

 

We are in Romans chapter 8 and tonight we're going to begin in about verse 12. We've worked our way through the previous verses talking specifically last time about the whole doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit versus the filling of the Holy Spirit. 

Remember that every single believer at the instant of salvation is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, non-experiential event. That means we don't feel it. It's not something that gives us a feeling of warmth or a glow.  It's not represented by any kind of activity. It's simply something that happens along with numerous other, non-experiential things such as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, justification, adoption, all of these things that the Bible talks about that become ours and our reality at the instant of salvation. The only way we can learn about them is when we come to study the Word of God and then we realize how much God has given to us and how much He has provided to us. 

 

When we think about it, that's the way many things in life are. We're given many things in life with our birth. We're given a certain amount of natural talents and abilities, due to what is passed on to us through genetics, our inheritance through our parents and we only activate those things as we make decisions in life and decide to use them and we discipline ourselves and make many, many choices. Ultimately it comes down to our volition and making right decisions to pursue excellence and exploit whatever it is we've been given. When we study the Word we come to understand what it is we've been given spiritually and our need to exploit that. 

 

What becomes the foundation for our spiritual life is what Paul talked about at the beginning of Romans, which is our position in Christ. This is the result of this event that never before occurred in history prior to A.D. 33. That is the baptism by the Holy Spirit, that identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection that set us completely apart unto God and part of His family. It also involves, as a result of that, something we're going to look at tonight and that is adoption into God's family. And because it is adoption into God's family, it is adoption into God's royal family. With that comes something called inheritance. 

 

Now inheritance is one of those extremely significant doctrines in Scripture that is not always understood by many people.  In fact, the average reader of Scripture thinks that inheritance in Scripture is something that is common to every believer, that all believers are equally heirs of God and of Christ, and that heirship or inheritance of the kingdom of God is equivalent to getting eternal life and going into heaven. And yet what we discover is that when we look into these passages, which we'll see some of tonight and next time, inheritance is based on behavior. Inheritance is based on choices. Inheritance is based on works. 

 

But salvation is a free gift, according to Ephesians 2:8 and 9. So if inheritance is based on works and salvation is based on a free gift, then salvation is not the same as inheritance. They are two different things.  Now there are some aspects of our inheritance that are true for every believer and a part of salvation but there are other aspects of our inheritance that are based on choices and on volition and our decision to grow and mature in our Christian life. 

 

Now just for a little review, let's go back to verse 6, which is an explanation of a general principle. This is something that is true for a believer and an unbeliever, anyone whose mind is set on the sin nature, whose life is energized by the sin nature. The result of that is going to be death. Verse 6 says, "To be the carnally minded is death... [The Greek word there is for the sin nature]" Now that is a general principle. The unbeliever has no option but to be carnally minded. He can't be spiritually minded because he's not regenerate. He's spiritually dead. 

 

The believer can make a choice. If the believer is walking by the Holy Spirit, then he's not being energized by the flesh. That's what we looked at last time. But once we determine to stop walking by the Spirit then the result is that we go into that default mode of walking by the flesh. I was talking with Jim Myers today because I made the decision, due to a lot of things that happened this last fall, not to go over to Kiev this year. If I were going to Kiev this year I would not be here right now. I would be on my way over and I would be starting to teach there this coming Sunday. So Jim is teaching the course on rewards and inheritance in my place so we were going through the notes. He's added some things to what I had originally done. We always play off of each other that way. And so we were just going through a lot of the different passages in the seven letters to the seven churches, just to work our way through those because they're all about rewards and judgments. 

 

As we were talking about that and talking about that whole concept of walking by the Spirit, I used the analogy of Peter walking on the water. As Peter sees the Lord Jesus Christ walking on the water coming to the boat, Peter wanted to get out there and show that he could do that as well. He was always extremely motivated to trust the Lord.  He was just energetic that way. That's something we miss out on; he was highly motivated. People who are highly motivated not only make great decisions and see great successes but they also trip and fall on their face a lot. So often we look at the failures and we forget the great success. 

 

As Peter starts to walk on the water, his focus is on the Lord. As long as he is focused on the Lord, he is walking by faith on the basis of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to enable him to walk on the water. But before he sank, he took his eyes off the Lord. Now taking his eyes off the Lord wasn't in and of itself a sin but it put him in a position where he quit trusting and he put his eyes on something else. And that's what happens when we quit walking by the Holy Spirit. 

 

Jim made this great observation, saying, "We always focus on the fact that he took his eyes off the Lord but Peter walked on the water!" We forget that great success. He trusted the Lord and walked on the water. We always tend to go to the negative and say, "Yeah, but he took his eyes off the Lord." But he trusted the Lord and he did walk on the water and that's just incredible. So anyway Jim and I had a great conversation about that this morning.

 

This illustrates what every believer can do. We can do the spiritual equivalent of walking on water, something supernatural, something miraculous in our everyday life when we walk by the Holy Spirit but we have to keep our eyes on the Lord. We have to keep focused on the Word and we have to understand those dynamics of the spiritual life at having that focused, faith-rest mental attitude.  And if we don't have it then we're just going to look at the waves of testing and slip beneath the waters of carnality and that ends up in death, not eternal condemnation but in a temporal death that is non-productive in the Christian life. 

 

So Paul says, "For to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded..." Here he's talking about being focused on God the Holy Spirit. "... to be spiritually minded is life and peace." That's the result of being spiritually minded.  We have that abundant life that the Lord promised us. And then he explains that. Notice the 'because' in verse 7. All through this chapter it's important to notice those initial words because it tells us it's either an explanation...that would be 'for', or 'because' or it gives a result or conclusion with 'so', 'then', or 'therefore' or in some cases, like verse 9, it builds a contrast. So Paul then gives the reasoning behind this in verse 7, "For the carnal mind is enmity with God..." The carnal mind, the mindset energized by the sin nature is always hostile to God. It's not just a little bit hostile to God, it's not partially hostile to God, it is completely hostile to God no matter how it dresses itself up in all kinds of legalistic works and in going to church. 

 

Someone can go to church, be involved in prayer meetings or prayer groups and they can in many cases share their testimony and they can do all kinds of things, all though the energy of the flesh and it has no eternal value whatsoever. They can be completely energized by approbation lust, by power lust, by various different kinds of lust patterns that manifest themselves. They can be energized by jealousy, envy, a desire to show themselves better than others but none of that has any value eternally. But on the outside to you and I they appear the same. The person on the right side of the room with their head bowed and their eyes closed and the person on the left side of the room with head bowed and eyes closed looked the same. But which one is in fellowship and which one's not, you can't tell. The person on the left that's witnessing to somebody; the person on the right that's witnessing to somebody; one person is doing it in the power of the Holy Spirit and the other is doing it in the power of the flesh. You and I cannot discern the difference. One person is giving, another person is giving, we can't discern the difference. Only God can. And that which is done in the power of the flesh is hostile to God because it's man depending on the arm of the flesh for success.

 

As Paul says,  Paul says. the sin nature]"  "For the carnal mind is enmity against God for it [the carnal mind] is not subject to the Law of God." It's doing it under its own terms. Verse 8 says, "So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God." If the carnal mind is hostility toward God, Paul concludes that those in the flesh cannot please God. And we live in a world where it is a rare instance where pastors or teachers understand this distinction of doing it in the power of the Spirit or in the power of the flesh. It's muddied up. Much of theology is influenced by Calvinism and Reform theology. 

 

When I was in seminary and many other times I have had professors and instructors who just failed to understand this. In fact, they failed to understand how you could recover from sin and they didn't teach the significance of 1 John 1: 9 and confession which is covered in many other ways all through the Scripture. But here we have a clear description of the believer who is operating in the sin nature, which is hostile to God who can't submit to the law of God. That's not the Mosaic Law; that's the mandates in the New Testament. They're not able to submit to the law of God because they cannot please God when they're out of fellowship. 

 

Now how in the world can you recover from that? You can't. And how in the world can you think someone can be a little bit carnal and a little bit spiritual because they have mixed motives. Let's look at that concept a minute. Mixed motives are like having something with a little bit of leaven in it. It's good but it has a little bit of leaven. Paul says in Scriptures that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." It doesn't take but a little bit of wrong motivation, wrong attitude, being out of fellowship and no matter what you're doing that's good, it's done from a wrong motivation and done from a wrong way. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. It never will be right. 

 

It doesn't matter what the results are and so you have today a lot of people running around with a lot of God talk and a lot of Jesus talk and yet they have nothing going on that is Biblical, spiritual, or is really of the Holy Spirit. It's extremely sad because what these churches and pastors and groups have done is completely deceive people in thinking that their emotions and all the feelings that are generated going to those kinds of churches means they're somehow closer to God and they're as far away as they could possibly be. They may be saved but they're not getting anywhere in their Christian life. They don't know how to go forward. They're stuck and they're baby Christians, they're still in diapers, and we all know what babies do to diapers. That's all they're doing through their life and they don't know how to clean anything up by confession. 

 

So verse 7 says, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God [this is an extremely strong word], for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." In verse 9, you have a big contrast, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." So the starting point in verse 9 is being a believer and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 

 

Then he says in verse 10, "And if Christ is in you ..." Here he's talking about a shift here towards the abiding relationship or fellowship with Christ because that's the purpose for the indwelling of the Spirit. "... the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." 

 

Then we come to a conclusion in verse 12, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live according to the flesh." So we are in a position of indebtedness because everything has been paid for us and we accept that as a free gift but we are in debt to the grace of God. This states the principle: we are debtors not to the flesh [which means to live according to the flesh]. Then we have an explanation which starts with that word "for" and then begins a series of first class assumptions so it's an assumption of the truth of the first part which leads to the result of the second part. "For if you live according to the flesh [assuming you're living according to the flesh], you will die ..." Not eternal death.

 

Remember there are seven different kinds of death in the Scripture. There's physical death, there's spiritual death which is true of every person who is born, we're born physically alive but spiritually dead. There is carnal death, there is positional death when we're identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there is eternal death [eternal condemnation], there's sexual death. These are some of the different deaths in Scripture. There is operational death for the believer who lives according to the sin nature. He will die; he will not be able to produce anything that has eternal value. 

 

That's the focus here: if you live according to the flesh you will die, you will live a death-like existence. You have eternal existence and justification but you will have this temporal death-like existence. So you have the first part of this statement, the protasis, which is basically a grammatical term for the first part of a conditional clause, "if you are living according to the flesh". If you are living your life on the basis of the sin nature you must die. You will die. It's an imperatival result there indicating the consequences of that death. "... but [in contrast] if by the Spirit [first class condition] you are putting to death the deeds [practice] of the body, you will live." 

 

Both of these statements 'you must die' is an infinitive and indicates the natural consequence of living according to the flesh and 'you will live' is a future passive that shows the result of living by means of God the Holy Spirit. And the phrase there for the Spirit is just your normal dative use for the Spirit there indicating He's the means whereby we do what? We put to death the deeds of the body. Here's another way in which death is used here. A central idea in death is often separation. For example, when Adam and Eve sinned, they were separated from God. When Adam and Eve believed, that restoration of relationship occurred and was restored.  So we have a separation that should occur here from the deeds of the body. This is another way Paul uses to talk about the deeds of the flesh, or the sin nature. 

 

So believers are to be putting to death, that is, separating themselves from the works of the sin nature. And that only comes about by what? By making decisions such as, "I'm not going to react that way. I'm not going to respond that way. I'm not going to give in to those feelings of anger or resentment or I'm not going to follow through with that lust pattern, I'm not going to let that control my life right now. Right now, if you're a baby believer it may last a nanosecond. Right now if you have a little time in grade, it might last two or three minutes, maybe five or ten minutes. As we mature spiritually then it lasts longer. But what we're supposed to be doing is putting to death the deeds of the flesh, not saying, "Well, it's really hard. I'll just confess my sin later." That's not how it's done. We should be putting to death the deeds of the flesh, removing that from our life. That's the focus of the metaphor, "separating that from our life." We are to put to death the deeds of the flesh. 

 

And then there's an additional reality here that we have to understand in terms of this distinction with children that comes in the next verse. The next verse says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Now let's stop a minute and think about this. Now we have a further issue. 

There are believers who are not led by the Spirit and what this means is they're not following the Spirit. They're not walking by the Spirit. The Spirit may be objectively leading but they're saying, "I'm going this way. I'm going that way. I'm not following your leadership." 

 

This isn't talking about the reality that God the Holy Spirit leads every believer. But God the Holy Spirit doesn't make every believer follow. Remember, last week I talked about Galatians 5 that there are two different passages or two different words that are used in Galatians 5 for walking. At the beginning there's the command that we're to walk by means of the Spirit and we won't carry out the deeds of the flesh. That word for walk is peripateo [peripatew]. It's a word that simply focuses on the mechanics of walking and putting one foot in front of the other. You walk along one step at a time, taking one decision at a time, not looking down the path to the chasm that's coming up or the rough patch that's coming up but just focusing on one step at a time right now. 

 

At the end of that segment we have stoicheo in verse 26 which talks about following in the steps of the Spirit. There's an order to it so it's emphasizing another aspect of walking, following in the steps of the Spirit. See, there are a lot of Christians who don't want to follow in the steps of the Spirit. They want to follow their own path, not the path laid out by the Spirit, which is the Word of God. They want to chart their own course. They want to use all the God-words, all the Jesus-terms, wear the little bracelets that say 'What would Jesus do?" and all the little witness wear and all this other stuff but it's superficial. It doesn't go any deeper than their clothing because they don't understand any of the mechanics and the stoicheo believer is the one who is following in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Spirit is always leading but Christians are not always following in those footsteps. Now the ones who follow are actively being led by the Spirit. They are doing what the Spirit says to do and they are following those steps, those verses, those protocols laid down in the Word for us to go forward. The ones who do this over a period of time reach maturity and they're called 'sons of God'. It's a technical word in the Greek, huios. It's not a baby, it's not an infant, it's not a child but it's a mature son. And so what Paul begins here in verse 14 is to lay out a chart of two different courses of action in the lives of believers. You can have a destiny as a believer that is mediocre or a failure or a destiny as a believer who is a success and identified in the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation as an overcomer believer. 

 

The problem is we take a verse like this as equivalent to the phrase 'sons of God' or actually 'children of God' in John 1:12 but it's a different term. John 1:12 is talking about teknon [teknon] which is a term for children, not sons. These are mature sons. We have to realize that at the instant of salvation, every believer is regenerated and adopted into the royal family of God. We're regenerated and become a new creature in Christ but we're just a little whiny baby in diapers and we don't know anything. What Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:2 is that we are to desire or hunger for the Word like a newborn baby. If any of y'all have been around newborn babies when they get hungry, they just start screaming for food. They want food. They want somebody to feed them. They want that right away. I'm seeing some heads nod out there. Yeah, they want to be fed. A lot of new believers are that way but if you don't feed them, then their appetite starts to go away after a while and their systems start to shut down and they quit demanding food. This is where 98% of American Christians are today. They've been starved for so long that they don't even know that they're hungry. 

 

Years ago I went on a long outward bound type of experience with Honeyrock Camp which is Wheaton's Camp up in the north woods. At the end of two weeks of canoeing and backpacking, we did this three-day solo. We weren't to have food for a number of reasons. That was part of the goal, to go three day without food and to fast. One of the most significant reasons was because there were a lot of bears in those woods. If you had any food with you, the bears would come in at night and roust your little camp. We were all spread out about a hundred or two hundred yards apart from each other so there wasn't any way to get any help. Nobody had any 1911s in their backpack to protect themselves from any marauding bears, no 357 magnums or anything like that so you knew you had to make sure you didn't have any food. 

 

After about the first day or so your appetite began to naturally suppress. We were drinking a lot of water, we were right on the shore of Lake Superior which keeps a mean temperature of 33 degrees year round so that's too cold for bacteria to develop so it's perfectly good to drink all the time, at least it still was at that time. This was about 1980, I believe. So we had all the water we could drink and I couldn't believe it. By noon of the second day I had no desire for food. By the end of the third day the appetite's completely gone. You don't care about food. You're not interested in food. 

 

The next day we all were gathered up, talked about our experiences, got loaded up on a couple of trucks and vans and were taken back toward the base camp about thirty miles away. Then we were dropped off about 13 miles, half a marathon, from the base camp. After three and half days of no food, preceded by two weeks of backpacking and canoeing with very little food, then we had to run the last thirteen mile back to the base camp. When we got there, there was a sumptuous, sumptuous meal for us. You really didn't want to eat that much. But once you started eating that appetite kicked into high gear. 

 

Now I think spiritual hunger is something like that. If you don't feed newborn baby believers, then they're not hungry after a while. Their appetite gets suppressed. That's what happens in all these churches. You don't hear whiny babies crying to their pastors that they need more doctrine, they need more teaching, they need to learn something because they've been starved so much, they've been put on a spiritual fast, so they don't want to hear anything, they don't want to learn anything, they don't want to eat any spiritual food. But those who haven't gone too far when they start hearing the truth, a lot of times, all of a sudden they wake up, and they become spiritually energized and they want to eat. That's the idea Peter has in 1 Peter 2:2 when he states "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby." We grow by the Word, not by singing, not by fellowship, but by the Word.  We grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

So we're regenerated but then we have to grow. We start off as babies. Brephos [brefoj] is the Greek word for infant, teknon can be a child from infancy all the way up to they are an adult mature son. Then we have the word huios [u(ioj] which describes an adult son. That's the word we have here. Those who follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, these are the ones who become sons of God, adult sons, mature Christians. You only get there by walking by the Spirit and following the leadership of the Spirit. Now several passages in the Scripture are important references to this. One that I mentioned earlier is John 1:12. John 1:12 talks about the fact that we're saved as children. "But as many as received Him..." a synonym for believing at the end of the verse. The previous verse says "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him", meaning the Jews. "... but as many as received him [accepted Him as Messiah], to them He gave the right to become children, teknon, of God even ..." This is an ascensive use of the conjunction kai [kai] which means that is, "to those who believe in His name." So how do you become a child of God? You believe in His name. At that instant you become a child of God. 

 

You're not a child of God because you are a creature of God's. That is the teaching of liberalism. In my first church I had some people who liked to watch Robert Schuller on Sunday morning and they also liked to watch the broadcast of First Methodist Church in Houston. I was down near Galveston. There were a lot of great people in the church, too. It was a mixed bag, a great learning experience. You want to have a church like that when you're young and when you're just getting started because you need to learn and go through those hard knocks. To get that kind of congregation at the end of the run is tough. You don't want to do all that head knocking that needs to come along. You're too tired after forty years of dealing with sheep. 

 

There were many people in that church who believed everybody was a child of God. That's the so-called the Christian belief of many Americans who believe we're all children of God but what this teaches is that the only way to become a child of God is to believe in His name, which in the context of the gospel of John is to believe Jesus is who He claimed to be, the eternal Son of God and the Promised Messiah. So we're saved to become sons, not to stay as babies. 

 

The fifth thing we learn here is that several passages indicate sonship is a result of character, not simply faith. In case you got lost on some of those points, the first point was that at the instance of salvation every believer is regenerated and adopted into the royal family of God. Second, at that instance of salvation, everybody is a baby. Everybody is a little crybaby, a little whiny baby. Then the third point is that huios is an adult son. There has to be growth. It doesn't happen automatically. It only happens as a result of decision, after decision, after decision to partake of spiritual food. Fourth point, John 1:12 shows that we're saved for this ultimate purpose. Then fifth, several passages indicate that sonship is a result of character, spiritual maturity, not simply the result of believing the gospel. 

 

That's really important because some people want to make sonship equivalent to the gospel. But what is the gospel? The gospel is that salvation is a free gift. Ephesians 2: 8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast." You don't work to earn a gift; it is something freely given but these passages that talk about sonship talk about something being earned: something that's the result of character change, something that's the result of growth. For example, Matthew 5:44-45 says, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." This should be a sign over everybody's doorway in times of political persecution. 

 

Wait a minute. I thought over in John 1:12 that John said it's by faith. That's to become a child of God. This is becoming a huios of God, a son of God. In order to be a huios, to grow to maturity we have to be obedient. We have to enact in our lives the mandates of Scripture. So Jesus says that in order that you may be sons of your father in heaven "for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." That's grace orientation. This is talking about common grace. So how do you become a son of God? You have to grow to spiritual maturity. You have to have unconditional love toward those who love you as well as those who are enemies. Another verse is Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." This isn't talking about world peace. This is talking about peace between fallen human beings who are born in a state of enmity with God and God who is reconciling the world to Himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a term that always related to peace. The way we are peacemakers is through exercising our ambassadorship, representing God and announcing the gospel that there is peace between you and God. You need to believe in Jesus Christ and this peace becomes a reality in your life. So the peacemakers are those who are witnessing to and evangelizing those who have never trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior. So the peacemakers are blessed because they're growing to maturity. They shall be called sons of God. 

 

Then when we go to the end of the New Testament, to the end of the book of Revelation, we have one of those passages that people always get confused about. I encourage you if you've never gone through the Revelation series, take some time and at least go look at the passage in Revelation 21: 7 and 8 because this is so very important to understand. Revelations 21:7 talks about inheriting and Revelations 21:8 talks about losing an inheritance. So the context here is talking about inheritance, not justification or getting eternal life. In 21:7 we're told, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things..." So that means if you want to inherit everything from God you have to do something. Wait a minute. I thought salvation was not by works. Right. That's why overcoming can't be equivalent to gaining eternal life. Gaining eternal life is a free gift. So inheritance is the result of overcoming. 

 

The one who overcomes grows to spiritual maturity and Jesus promises, "I will be his God and He shall be my son." But then we have the contrast of the person who spends his life just living in his sin nature as much as he did before he was saved in verse 8, "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone and is the second death." Now the key word there is that word 'part'. We've studied this before. There are many people who take that to mean they have their destiny there, they shall have their role in the lake of fire. That's not what the word means. It's a Greek word meros [meroj] which is used to designate that part of a will that specifies the inheritance to an heir. So it should be translated, "they shall have their portion of the inheritance". It's not talking about them. It's talking about their portion of the inheritance. So the picture here is that here is an inheritance that was set aside for this individual but because they failed to mature and qualify for the inheritance, rather than receiving the inheritance that would be distributed at their majority or when they become mature, they're disqualified from receiving it. 

 

They're still in the family of God. They still enter heaven but the inheritance is thrown into the Lake of Fire and destroyed for eternity. They're never going to qualify for it. It's not talking about losing salvation; it's talking about losing inheritance. This is seen throughout many, many passages. I did a lot of in depth study of that whole concept when we went through the book of Revelation. So the overcomer is the one who grows to spiritual maturity; the non-overcomer is the one who lives according to the sin nature. So the one who overcomes will be a son. It's works again in the sense of pursuing spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. 

 

Now back to Romans. When we look at Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." These are the mature ones. Now in verse 15 we have another explanation "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear ..." What he means by "spirit of bondage" is that he means bondage to slavery to sin which we were set free from at the instant of salvation through the baptism by the Holy Spirit. "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we call out 'Abba, Father.'"  Now abba is the Hebrew or Aramaic term that's equivalent to daddy. It's a term of endearment between a son and a father. You go around Israel and you always hear the kids calling to their father, "Abba. Abba. Come look at this." Abba and daddy are equivalent. It is a very intimate term between a father and a child. So we are adopted into the family of God and He becomes our Father. 

 

This introduces us to the doctrine of adoption. It's a fundamental doctrine. I want to look at it two ways. First of all we have to understand something about the historical background and that may be as far as we get this evening and then we'll look at its doctrinal significance. We're adopted into the family of God. This means that now for all legal purposes we are part of God's family. We see this under the sealing of the Holy Spirit. He basically puts his brand on us. This is a good Texas doctrine so we're identified forever and ever as His. We can't lose that. It is a permanent adoption. When Paul talks about adoption, he covers it both in Romans 8 here as well as in Galatians, chapters three and four. He builds on the Romans and Greek ideas. He sort of borrows from both. When you use metaphors you're not using everything in the comparison. A metaphor or simile always compares one thing to another. A simile is a stated comparison such as, "White as snow." There are a lot of different characteristics of snow. White is the one characteristic that's the focal point of this comparison and it's a stated comparison using the word "as" or "like". White as snow and then you have the literal sign of its reality. 

 

When you look at adoption it's a metaphor, not everything related to either Greek or Roman adoption would apply, just certain features of Greek or Roman adoption would apply. In Greek adoption, the practice of adoption emphasized the family relationship. A man during his life or by a will after his death [isn't that interesting?] could adopt any male citizen into the privileges of his family. So a male could adopt someone at the time of his death. You'd never even know them actually. They may already be dead but according to the terms of the will you're adopted into his family which gives you all of the privileges that pertain to that particular family. 

 

So that is a point of comparison with the family of God because Jesus Christ dies on the Cross and because of His death on the cross we can be adopted into the family of God and given all the privileges related to family membership. So the adopted son, in the Greek model, would accept all the legal obligations and the religious duties of a real son. So he becomes the son in reality by choice and he has all these legal obligations that are set upon him. So when Paul emphasizes the family aspects of our adoption, he has the Greek model in mind. The Greek model focuses on those family realities and that's especially true in Romans. 

 

Paul, in Romans 8, emphasizes the reality of our adoption as part of what happens with the baptism by the Holy Spirit at that same instant in time, and all the different things that happen. One of those is that we're adopted into the family of God. So the emphasis here in Romans 8 is on the impact that should have on the way in which we should live. Now we have a new obligation because we have been adopted into the family of God. 

 

The Roman custom was much more severe and demanding. Roman law emphasized a severe authority of the father over the son. The father in the Roman system could just at the snap of a finger put everyone into slavery for the rest of their lives. He is the complete tyrant over the family. He is a tyrant over the son so that the son is no better than a slave until adulthood. Now that fits more the model of what Paul is illustrating when he's talking about adoption over in Galatians. The reason the Romans gave such authority to the father is that they were trying to protect the inheritance and protect the purity of the aristocracy. 

 

If a natural son is a loser, a failure, if he's incompetent, if he just can't carry the banner for the family, then the father can disinherit him and he can bring in an adopted heir. Can you think of an illustration of this? Ben Hur. Judah Ben Hur, that's where the name comes from, he's a Jewish aristocrat who is framed for an attack on Roman soldiers by accidentally knocking some tiles off the roof and they fall down and hit soldiers and as a result he's put into prison. He's sold as a slave and he goes into the galleys and is a galley slave.  Then he's involved in this huge battle at sea and he saves the life of a Roman tribune who then adopts him as his son. When he shows up back in Jerusalem he goes by the Roman family name, he has the family seal, he represents everything in the family even though he's not a blood relation. He is an adult when he's adopted. That film shows a great illustration of the history of Roman adoption. 

 

In the Roman system, there's a ceremonial purchase of the one who is going to be adopted which is referred to as 'redemption'. He's purchased through this ceremony. So if the new son was a slave, like in the case of Ben Hur, then an actual purchase price is paid for his freedom. He's redeemed from slavery and then as a free man he's then adopted into the family. Roman adoption emphasizes inheritance or the possession of certain things, not a blood relationship, and it can relate to a blood relationship, as well as an unrelated heir. 

 

Now in the Roman system, in the first fourteen years, a son is put under a pedagogue or tutor. This is what Paul talks about in Galatians. He's put under a tutor and he's basically treated as a slave, inferior to the slave who is the tutor. The role of the pedagogue is to discipline and to train the child of the aristocrat. So in those early years there are no rights for the son for the first fourteen years until he is old enough at the age of fourteen to receive the toga of youth which indicates his new position. Then this indicates even for a blood son there is a sort of adoption ceremony where he is recognized and made part of the family. When the father announces that the son is now accepted into the family. 

 

That's all the time we have but you can see where we're going. Now what Paul does is he's going to draw from the historical analogies that are familiar to his readers to show that there are privileges that we have as believers because we've been adopted into the family of God and we now have to live up to that family name. We carry that banner forward and so there's an obligation put upon us, as believers, to live in a way that brings honor and glory to God and this is because we are now adult sons. We'll come back next time and look at that and then connect it to the doctrine of inheritance.